A Stunning Fall For CIA's Celebrated Petraeus CIA director David Petraeus has resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair. Host Scott Simon talks to NPR's Tom Bowman about this latest development in the former general's storied career.

A Stunning Fall For CIA's Celebrated Petraeus

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

David Petraeus has resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, citing an extramarital affair and saying that he showed, quote, "extremely poor judgment." It was a stunning fall for one of the most celebrated generals in recent U.S. history. NPR's Tom Bowman is here to talk about it. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: You're welcome, Scott.

SIMON: What do we know now about what happened?

BOWMAN: Well, this all happened on Thursday. General Petraeus went to meet with the president, saying he wanted to resign for personal reasons. He said in a statement that his behavior was dishonorable, said he was married for 37 years.

Now, his wife Holly was also high profile. She worked at Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and they helped soldiers with financial issues, exploitation by non-profit schools and lenders. They also have a son who served as an army officer in Afghanistan back in 2010.

SIMON: Affairs by nature are secret. How did this one come to light?

BOWMAN: This all came to light through an FBI investigation. Now Petraeus was not a party to this investigation in any way, but Paula Broadwell was, and she was the one having an affair with General Petraeus.

SIMON: Someone who's written a book about General Petraeus.

BOWMAN: Exactly. Yeah, she's a West Point grad, a researcher. She wrote this glowing biography of Petraeus. And the FBI found hundreds, if not thousands, of emails between the two, and clearly from the emails there was an affair going on here. But there were no criminal charges, so the FBI just kind of notified Petraeus, you know, we have all this information, and then that led to him going to the president and resigning.

SIMON: So the investigation was not into General Petraeus.

BOWMAN: Right.

SIMON: And we know why the FBI was looking at (unintelligible)?

BOWMAN: You know, we don't. We just know that Paula Broadwell was involved in some way in this investigation. But at this point we don't have a lot of detail.

SIMON: President Obama called David Petraeus one of the most celebrated generals. What made his reputation?

BOWMAN: In one word - Iraq. The Iraq war, he's one of the few national leaders who came out looking good from the Iraq war. And he took over command, he was in - he took over command in 2007 when people thought this, you know, Iraq war was doomed.

And what he did was he changed the way they looked at the war. Rather than just go after insurgents, he focused on the population, rather than just capturing and killing insurgents. He pushed for security of the population, worked with tribal elders, build roads and schools and so-forth, and tie the people to their government. That's how you deal with insurgencies.

SIMON: He had critics too, must be noted.

BOWMAN: You know, he did have critics. He was seen as a self-promoter, cozying up to generals throughout his career. And he also courted the press quite well and that did not endear him to his fellow generals. There was a famous Newsweek magazine cover with the headline in showing General Petraeus in full battle gear and the headline was Can This Man Save Iraq?

SIMON: That will not necessary endear you to your other colleagues.

BOWMAN: Absolutely not.

SIMON: Look, I've gotten a lot of emails in the past few hours. And maybe you have too, Tom, from people who say in the past, generals, and even commanders in chief have had extramarital affairs, and they didn't resign. Why did David Petraeus, now head of the CIA, feel obliged to resign?

BOWMAN: Well, all we know is what he said in his statement, that his behavior was reprehensible, that he thought it was a point of personal honor that he should leave this agency, and he said, you know, we're held to higher standard here at the CIA, therefore, you know, I think it's my duty to resign.

SIMON: So near as you can tell as we speak now, this was self-motivated, not necessarily put in place by outside of him.

BOWMAN: That's right. All the indications we have now is he did this on his own. Once the FBI came forward and told him about that they have information about the affair, he decided on his own that he had to go.

SIMON: NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman. Thanks so much for being with us.

BOWMAN: You're welcome, Scott.


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